To the campus community:Leopard head with mask

We have completed two full weeks of class, and while we continue to strive to provide as normal a semester as possible, our COVID-19 case count is rising. I’d like to talk about what safety measures the College has taken and will take (including the indoor mask mandate), CDC findings on classroom COVID-19 transmission, and what we all need to do in order to keep each other safer.

As an institution we did several things to help the community come together more safely:

  • Required vaccination with very limited exemptions
  • Testing for unvaccinated, symptomatic students and close contacts identified through the tracing process
  • Enhanced indoor air quality in classrooms
  • Required masking indoors for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals while the county is in high or substantial transmission

Vaccinations remain the most effective tool at combating the most serious outcomes of COVID-19. For those who have received medical or religious exemptions, we urge you to remain in contact with your physician or spiritual leader to evaluate whether, now that the Pfizer vaccine has full FDA approval, remaining unvaccinated is the best option for you. While our number of vaccine exemptions is very small because students live, work, and play in close proximity to each other, it is likely that every day vaccinated and unvaccinated students, faculty, and staff come in contact with one another. 

Vaccines alone are not thwarting the spread of disease, and this has proven especially true on college campuses where large numbers of students eat and live with each other. In studying K-12 and early childhood classrooms, the CDC consistently has found that classroom environments are low risks for COVID-19 transmission, especially when additional mitigation measures such as requiring masks and increasing ventilation or filtration are added. Our own and other campuses’ contact tracing experiences last spring and in the early fall suggest the same holds true for the college classroom environment. Social settings are a very different issue, and all of our COVID-19 outbreaks have been linked to social events and activities. What can you do to better protect yourself and those around you?

  • Mask as much as possible, even in settings where masking is not required.
  • Limit social contacts in enclosed, indoor spaces, especially avoiding environments where crowds are tightly packed into smaller spaces.
  • Understand what it means to be a “close contact.” Close contacts are determined only through the contact tracing process and not through self-identification. Keeping six feet of distance between yourself and others, in as many settings as possible, is helpful.
  • Understand the CDC guidance for fully vaccinated individuals and remember, routine testing of asymptomatic vaccinated individuals is not recommended.
  • Have a plan to leave campus if you test positive and live within 300 miles. We have limited space for isolation, and students and families must plan for the possibility that those within driving distance will need to leave campus. 
  • If you have symptoms, stay home and get tested as soon as possible. Students should contact Bailey Health Center. Faculty and staff should contact your primary care provider.
  • If you get a test off campus and it is positive, you must notify the health center immediately. Faculty and staff should notify the Office of Human Resources.

We had hoped to see a reduction in the number of COVID-19 cases regionally by this point, but the county remains in high transmission, and our campus COVID-19 cases are escalating. Therefore we will continue to require masking indoors in all academic and administrative buildings, the fitness center, dining halls when not eating, the libraries, at athletic events, and in performance spaces. We also recommend even if you are vaccinated that you mask inside your residence halls, when visiting shops in town, and when outside in larger groups. 

You have an active role to play in our successful on-campus semester. Follow our numbers on the COVID-19 dashboard. We will update the case numbers daily and the testing and vaccination numbers weekly. 

Be on the lookout for a weekly update from me on the status of the campus in regard to COVID-19 and the measures needed to be safer together.

Annette Diorio
Vice President for Campus Life